Meta description: Find out how hydrotherapy can help you deal with pain such as arthritis and burn injuries. Learn how aqua therapy can help improve mobility and strength.
Ever wonder how water is related to healing even in ancient times? Or how have you experienced a positive change after a hot bath or a trip to a local hot spring?
It turns out that different properties of water can uniquely affect our bodies. For example, the temperature of the water can influence the dilation and constriction of our blood vessels, which affect how our blood flows throughout the body.
Studies also show that water immersion, as a therapy, can also affect the nervous system allowing us to experience calmness, decrease pain, and make us resilient to stress.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about hydrotherapy and how it can help you improve your overall health and wellness..
What is hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy or aqua therapy is a form of treatment that uses the properties of water to promote various health benefits in the body and improve medical conditions.
Physical therapists use this technique to alleviate skin issues like burns and septic ulcers. They can also use hydrotherapy to address chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain.
Hydrotherapy is a great way to manage symptoms without relying on medications and other invasive treatments or surgeries.
What are the different therapeutic properties of water?
Water has several therapeutic properties that make it a profound tool in rehabilitation. Some of the key properties of water that are used in hydrotherapy include the following:
Warm water can help increase circulation, reduce muscle spasms, and promote relaxation by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. While cold water, on the other hand, can effectively reduce inflammation and swelling, and numb pain if you suffer from an injury.
Most people with chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, experience pain relief and relaxation of tensed muscles when immersed in warm water at 32 to 34°C (90 to 92°F).
The buoyancy of the water counteracts the weight of an object immersed in it. This means less pressure is placed on the joints and muscles during hydrotherapy, making it easier for patients with mobility issues to move and exercise.
Buoyancy allows athletes recovering from joint or ligament injuries of the lower body, such as ankle sprain and ACL tear, to have some form of active training and recovery.
Water can also offer an excellent alternative for people who want to improve their muscle strength and physique due to its resistance. When you are immersed in water, you’ll immediately feel the force of water acting against you, making it harder to move inside a pool than on land.
This gives the necessary stimulus for your muscles to work out and grow. Swimming is another excellent example of an activity that utilizes water resistance to provide a full-body workout.
Hydrostatic pressure rappers to the pressure exerted by water on the body. In hydrotherapy, hydrostatic pressure is used to promote circulation and reduce swelling.
Water pressure provides a mild compressive force on the body, which helps push fluids out of the tissues and back into the circulation resulting in relief from edema or swelling.
The movement of water can provide a gentle massage, which can help relieve tension and improve stress levels.
What are the benefits of hydrotherapy?
Treatment for various conditions
Hydrotherapy can be an excellent addition to various treatments for the following conditions:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Nerve pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cerebral palsy
- Sports injuries (ACL, PCL, Ankle sprain, etc.)
It is essential to note that hydrotherapy is a complementary treatment to existing therapeutic interventions. It is not a permanent cure, and it should not replace the treatment your healthcare provider provides you.
Warm water temperature can ease muscle tension and increase blood flow in the body. In addition, the sensation of weightlessness in the water can also help reduce stress and promote calmness. This aids relaxation of both the mind and body, allowing you to experience better symptom relief.
The sensation of warmth can stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. Being immersed in warm water can also relax tensed and tight muscle groups, which improves pain and muscle spasms.
Recovery from workouts
Some elite athletes use various forms of hydrotherapy, such as cold sponges or alternate warm and cold water treatments, to recover from hard workouts and training. Studies show that immersion in cold water after strenuous physical activities can significantly improve fatigue and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Improves mental health
Water-based activities, in general, have been proven to reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression. In hydrotherapy, patients are often encouraged to exercise while immersed in water, which can effectively improve mood and help release tension through physical movements.
Different forms of hydrotherapy can improve heart and lung function. In addition, about 230 calories are burned for every hour of swimming or physical activities inside a pool. This could help improve weight loss and promote lean muscles.
Aquatic exercises and other hydrotherapy interventions have a very low impact on the joints and minimize the stress on recovering muscles and other soft tissues. As a result, athletes and active individuals can be stuck to their workout routine while reducing pain.
Older adults can also enjoy hydrotherapy as a recreational activity while keeping their overall health in check. The buoyancy of water decreases the impact of exercises on their joints and allows them to do more physical activities while in the pool.
Is hydrotherapy for me?
Hydrotherapy is a safe and effective treatment when done by qualified professionals such as licensed physiotherapists. Hydrotherapy can help you alleviate pain, improve stiffness and promote improvement in quality of life.
People who can’t tolerate being in the water, have bowel issues, and those at risk of infection are not eligible for aquatic therapy.
It is best to get a recommendation from your physical therapist or medical doctor if you want hydrotherapy to be added to your healthcare treatments.
What to expect during a hydrotherapy session?
A hydrotherapy session typically involves exercises or activities performed in water. The type and intensity of the activities will depend on your individual needs and goals, as well as your healthcare professional’s recommendations.
Here is what you can expect during a typical hydrotherapy session:
- Assessment: Before your session, a physiotherapist will assess your physical function and any conditions you have. They will also discuss your goals for the session and determine the most appropriate activities for you.
- Warm-up: You may start your session with a warm-up activity, such as walking in the water or performing gentle stretches. This will help to get your muscles prepared for the exercises to come.
- Exercises: The main part of the session will involve performing exercises in the water. These exercises may include movements to improve range of motion, strength, or flexibility. They may also include activities to reduce pain and swelling, such as light resistance exercises.
- Cool-down: After the exercises, you may perform a cool-down activity, such as gentle stretches or a slow walk in the water. This will help to ease your muscles and prevent injury.
- Relaxation: Some hydrotherapy sessions may include a period of relaxation, such as soaking in a warm bath or spa. This can help promote relaxation and stress relief and may be especially beneficial for individuals with anxiety or depression.
Most sessions last between 30 minutes to an hour, but this still depends on your physiotherapist based on your needs and goals. During the treatment, you are expected to bring your swimwear or loose, comfortable clothing to ease your movement. You may also need to bring your towels and personal medications.
Hydrotherapy for burns
Most hospitals with burn units offer hydrotherapy to help people with burn injuries. The jets and water pressure can safely clean wounds and clear out debris on burned skin. This can help reduce pain, redness, and the development of scars, allowing better patient recovery.
Hydrotherapy can be a profound treatment tool for improving recovery after an injury and addressing symptoms of pain and stiffness. Both athletes and older adults can experience its benefits while maintaining a safe environment for physical activities.
- An, J., et al. (2019). The thermal effects of water immersion on health outcomes: An integrative review.
- Health benefits of water-based exercise. (2016).
- Mooventhan, A., & Nivethitha, L. (2014). Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body.
- Taglietti, M., et al. (2018). Effectiveness of aquatic exercises compared to patient-education on health status in individuals with knee osteoarthritis: A randomized controlled trial.